By Gustavo Sosa

 

You have been told time and again that you have to stay positive, that having the right attitude will help you succeed; but that is wrong. It can ruin your career, bankrupt your company and even get you killed.

The popular wisdom is that dreaming will take you to your goals. New Age gurus will even tell you that dreaming alone will 'make the Universe conspire for your success'. In reality, when a person dreams, he feels like having already achieved his goals. That makes you less dedicated to working towards them. You also miss the opportunity to foresee the problems that may arise.

In reality, you should review every negative possibility. Think of every problem, make a plan to deal with each one, and even make a SHTF plan in case everything fails.

- What would you do if your partner steals from you?

- Maybe have my accounting audited every year.

- What if we have a drought next year?

- We should build some water tanks or even an artificial lake.

- What if prices fall?

That's what options and grain bins are for.

- What if consumer habits change?

- Perhaps I should invest some profits in a side business or invest in R&D.

The objective is achieving resilience. It is not the same as resistance. It doesn't mean that problems won't affect you. It is just that, if they do arise, you will be able to withstand them. Optimists tend to be more successful, because they make large gambles and eventually hit big, but they are more exposed. Pessimists are less successful because of being conservatives, but they actually are right most of the time. Negative thinking allows you to combine both approaches.

As Sun Tzu said, 'In ancient times skillful warriors first made themselves invincible, and then watched for vulnerability in their opponents.'

That is still true today. Make your plans foolproof, and then you can move forward confident in your ability to deal with anything life throws.

Of course, I know from experience that people will scoff at you, or avoid you completely, for being a negative thinker. However, you can present it as something else. Tell them you are managing by facts. This is a tool widely used in Lean Six Sigma.

So, to present your ideas to your partners or your boss, try a six stages report:

- What could go wrong? You will have to prepare a report for every possible scenario

- Do we have a plan for it? Sometimes there is a plan, like using an emergency fund, but it is just not very clever

- How likely it is that it happens? Give some rough 'order of magnitude' probability based on available data and your hunches. You don't want to waste time looking for a precise value

- How much would it cost if it happens? Consider doing some probability numbers to give the expected value of this failure

- What would be the new backup plan? Describe in detail what you think should be done, before, during and after the problem.

- How much would it cost to implement the backup plan? Consider lost income during implementation.

Now that you have everything laid out, it is only a matter of numbers: expected losses versus cost of implementation. Sometimes numbers will tell you to take the punches. Other times you will need a complex project. But at least you would have thought of everything.

So, next time you face a drought or an infestation, you will know what to do. You are welcome.

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